*photo from an awesome new-to-me blog, Paige Arminta
For almost five years now, Design Darling has been my digital happy place — a reason to share my favorite people, places, and things with a community of (mostly) women who have similar interests and taste. This little sliver of the internet has grown up with me: I’ve shared everything from my study abroad semester at 20 and moving to San Francisco at 21 to launching my online store at 22, weathering a tough break-up at 23, and sharing my first New York apartment at 24.
Along the way I’ve gotten more comfortable sharing glimpses of my personal style, professional milestones, and goals I’ve tackled as part of my 101 in 1001 list. I’ve also struggled with where to draw the line on sharing pieces of my personal life… Travel pictures, yes; dating advice, no. I’ve consistently tried to make this blog a home for the kind of content I want to read, particularly with the recent additions of career spotlights on some of my favorite women in business and shopping finds under $100.
In my continual quest for self-improvement, I’d love to hear your feedback on what you like, what you want more of, and what you could do without. This blog would be nothing without the awesome people who read it and I want to make Design Darling better for all of you. (Especially as I get ready to launch my site redesign — more on that soon!) I’m often surprised by which posts perform best (in terms of comments, social engagement, traffic from Pinterest, etc.) and I’d be lying if I said I don’t get discouraged when a career spotlight, DIY project, or more personal post don’t seem to resonate the way I thought they would.
So please don’t be afraid to speak up and let me know: what’s your favorite feature? anything from the past you wish I’d bring back? any features you skip over? something you’ve seen elsewhere that you’d like to see a Design Darling spin on? what makes you come to this blog day in and day out? what would make you check in more often? what do you wish I’d do differently? Please keep it constructive but don’t be afraid to be honest with me. I’m looking forward to hearing what you have to say!
I was back in my old stomping grounds on the Upper East Side last week for two upcoming career spotlights and happily stopped by Carl Schurz Park to see the cherry blossoms in action. It could not have been a more gorgeous day — I was thrilled to shed my jacket and don white denim for the first time in months. And creep on other people’s dogs because, I mean, why not?
Now about these jeans. I somehow misplaced my favorite pair from last summer so I’ve been on the hunt for an affordable replacement in the hopes that I’ll eventually find the original pair. I thought I’d take a chance on Old Navy’s white skinny jeans and was surprised to find that I like them just as much as my original favorite, which is saying a lot since they retail for under $35. They have the perfect amount of stretch and look super cute rolled up at the ankle now that it’s finally sandal weather. If you’re looking for affordable white jeans (aren’t we all?), I’m giving this pair two thumbs up!
Today I am beyond excited to be attending the TED Conference in Times Square. Seeing a TED Talk live is one of the goals on my 101 in 1001 list so I thought a little update would be timely! Here’s what I’ve crossed off since my list started on January 1:
1. Reconnect with my French host mom.
I lived with a host family in Tours, France, my junior year of college and became super close with my host mom, Marine. I may or may not have had to pull out my French-English dictionary to double check my first email to her but it was so great to hear about what’s new with her (two of my host sisters are now married with kids!) and get to tell her what the tiny little study abroad blog I started four years ago has become.
2. Reconnect with my favorite high school teacher.
Is anyone else terrible at keeping in touch? I really recommend this one to anyone and everyone who’s thinking of writing a 101 in 1001 list. Such a happy goal!
5. Go one month without shopping.
26. Switch to Gmail and unsubscribe from unwanted email lists.
Gmail is a game-changer (don’t ask what took me so long) and unroll.me is great for getting rid of pesky newsletters.
27. Upgrade to the iPhone 5S and update all my apps.
I promptly shattered the screen, but that’s beside the point…
30. Host a blogger brunch in the city.
This was such a special day. See all the pictures here!
31. Start a new blog series.
The career spotlights have become such a highlight of my week and a point of pride for Design Darling. The feedback from you all has been phenomenal (keep the emails and tweets coming!) and I’m excited to keep bringing you new features every other Wednesday. Read the first five interviews here!
32. Buy Photoshop and take Blogshop.
I loved this class! I walked in having never opened the program on my desktop and left two days later with a newly acquired wealth of knowledge I didn’t know was possible in such a short period of time. By the way, you can download a free 30-day trial of Photoshop and then pay $19.99 a month! It’s a great alternative to one big expense and it ensures you’ll always have the most up-to-date version.
53. Move downtown.
Oh how I love my new apartment!
75. Visit my friend Sara in Atlanta.
Such a fun trip. I can’t wait to go back!
79. Visit Austin with Will.
83. Leave a 100% tip for great service.
Will and I eat at Café Cluny at least a couple times a month and one time he ordered a drink that neither of us cared for. The waiter asked if everything was okay and we just said it wasn’t our favorite, no big deal. The waiter then erased the drink from our bill — a thoughtful gesture that promptly warranted him getting the cost of the drink and then some as an extra tip. This is now one of my favorite random acts of kindness — waiters and waitresses work so hard and it makes me happy to reward them for a job exceptionally well done. (P.S. More random acts of kindness here!)
87. See three Broadway plays.
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I continue to really enjoy keeping my 101 in 1001 list and encourage all of you to write one too! As always, if you tweet me the link to your list, I’ll add a link to your blog at the end of my list. I LOVE this little community of goal-setters and it’s so much fun for me to watch you all tackle your lists as I chip away at mine! Oh and I’ll be tweeting from the TED conference today so be sure to follow along here! xx
I’m so excited for the third career feature on Design Darling! This one was particularly fun to shoot for two reasons: 1) the designer is a woman of many, many talents and 2) she has an adorable five-month-old son who was content to hang out in my lap throughout the interview. That’s kind of as good as it gets for a Tuesday afternoon, you know?
But back to that comment about many talents. Brandy Pham is a jewelry designer extraordinaire — you’ve seen me wear her Lovely ring here, here, and here. But she’s also the cutest new mom you’ve ever seen, taught herself calligraphy just because (hello, 101 in 1001 list!), and offered Rebecca and me a latte from her kitchen the moment we walked through the door. And yet she didn’t make me feel bad about myself at all; in fact, I left her apartment feeling completely inspired by her graciousness and work ethic. I know she’ll inspire you as well!
(Editor’s note: Brandy, please teach me your secrets for flawless skin! Oh and I’ll babysit Theodore any time.)
Name: Brandy Pham
Title: Cofounder and creative director, Brandy Pham
Location: Upper West Side, New York, New York
What was your first job ever? Have you always been into designing jewelry?
My parents own a nail salon in Miami and I worked for them doing manicures and nail art from the time I was thirteen years old. After college, I knew I wanted to work in fashion. I came from a clothing background so jewelry was a happy accident.
How did you wind up launching your own company?
I would come home and complain about my day job every night to my husband. I started making jewelry on the side and giving it to friends and family but my husband was the one who gave me the push I needed to set a deadline to quit my day job and really go for it. I started off on Etsy and before long was growing a wholesale business.
I wouldn’t know the first thing about designing a piece of jewelry. Where do you start?
Inspiration can strike anywhere at any time. I pick away at my favorite details and examine my love for clothing and interiors. That’s where the needle pieces in my collection came from — my sewing machine was broken and I missed creating clothes so I was paying homage to my first love, fashion. I love the idea of wearing it on your heart or hands, the double needles you need for sewing machines.
That’s so cool! What happens after you have your lightbulb moment?
I start sketching and spec-ing it out, which gets pretty technical. You have to know the fit of the fingers or wrists to determine how we make our molds. Then it goes into casting — we use brass and sterling silver and it’s all done in New York. It takes months to become a model at our factory in the diamond district. Each piece touches so many different hands: the person who pours the metal, pulls it out of the cast, hand polishes it, and of course packages and ships it — that part is all me!
I love that it’s such a collaborative effort from start to finish. How would you describe the girl who’s wearing your jewelry?
The Brandy Pham girl is elegant but young, modern, and cool. It doesn’t matter how old she is — she has a great aesthetic and loves beautiful things. And I think we tap into the luxury market at an accessible price point.
It makes sense to design for what you know! What does a typical day look like for you?
My son Theodore wakes up anytime between 3:30 and 6:30 a.m. Once I feed him, I try to stay up! I do an hour of yoga or Pilates, shower, have fruit and coffee, check my emails, and catch up on the news. It’s my “me time” while the boys are sleeping! Then I fulfill online orders and follow up on wholesale accounts. Two or three times a week, I make runs to our factory to check on production and quality with Theodore in tow.
You’re such an inspiration to new moms. How do you stay organized?
It’s hard with a new baby! I tend to organize backwards depending on the date a particular shipment is due. But day to day, I’m really working around his feeding schedule and nap times. I’m a pen and paper girl — I still use a written calendar and use a ton of Post-It notes.
What are your favorite and least favorite parts of your job?
The fun part is actually designing, which is only about 10% of what I do. 90% of it is production and selling. In a perfect world, I’d have someone helping with sales. I love doing it myself because it’s my product and I of course love every piece but it is definitely grueling. I was super pregnant at our last trade show!
What’s one “pinch me” moment you’ve had so far?
One moment that was really big for me was when a buyer for Anthropologie walked into our booth at a trade show wanting to place an order and already knew what pieces she wanted. The fact that she had already had her eye on us before the show was pretty cool! She just asked for line sheets, gave me her card, and said her assistant would contact me the next day. I remember looking down at her card and trying not to freak out in front of her!
That seriously gives me goosebumps!
It was so surreal. Two days after labor, I was back in my apartment, packing two hundred pieces for Anthropologie.
That’s incredible. What’s the best advice you’ve received along the way?
To stay true to myself and to do what I feel is right. In the beginning, I designed what I thought would sell. But now I only design pieces I want to wear, which has made the collection so much stronger.
When will you know you’ve made it?
We’re a really young brand and I try to appreciate every little milestone. My husband and I can be really hard on each other; he motivates me to want to get into certain stores and things like that. We’re trying to just keep setting goals and continue to cross things off along the way. The other day I had a really happy moment: we saw a girl on the Lower East Side wearing my necklace and I had to do a double take. That’s the whole goal: to design jewelry and have people wear it. But to see it in person on a complete stranger? That was pretty awesome.
Keep up with Brandy Pham:
Whew, happy Friday! This week I interviewed two fabulous new career features, had a couple brand meetings, took outfit pictures in insane wind (can’t wait to see how those turn out… eek), and did dinner and drinks with a bunch of girlfriends I hadn’t seen in way too long. The career shoots in particular have become a really rewarding part of my week… I’m always nervous on the way there but the actual interview is always inspiring and I always leave with an extra skip in my step. I hope you feel the same way reading them! It makes me excited to keep producing original content for the blog and see what else my little corner of the internet could become.
This weekend is supposed to rain so I’m thinking it’s time to catch up on my Netflix queue (anyone else getting really into House of Cards?!) and maybe catch a movie in theaters if there’s anything worth seeing. (Recommendations please!) Whatever you’re up to, stay dry and have a good one! xx
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